What were 2022’s top trends with impacts on the wellness potential of our homes and housing markets? It’s worth noting them for their likely strength in the new year. Clearly, Covid is still playing a role in how homeowners choose to enhance their homes and how builders market them. Technology is also an ongoing and growing trend for home building and improvement. Sustainability is a growing factor too, with implications for human, as well as planetary, health. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the year ending this weekend and what 2023 is likely to continue and expand.
1. Indoor air quality has been a strong focus, both because of Covid’s airborne transmission, as well as unhealthy conditions from increasingly prevalent wildfires and a greater awareness of the links between pollution and human health. IAQ trends include wider availability, affordability and sales of air purifiers and increased awareness of the hazards of gas cooking – with a related transition toward induction.
2. Smart home technology is making it easier to add safety, health, comfort and convenience to our living spaces. We can detect leaks before they become floods, upgrade our appliances with healthy cooking capabilities, check on relatives’ safety remotely, and enjoy biophilia and personalized art on our TV screens, to name a few. Emerging interoperability standards and voice control capabilities will likely increase the prevalence and potential of simpler smart home technology in 2023.
3. Resilience is emerging as a concern for builders, homeowners, regulators and allied professionals. The collapse of a condo tower in Surfside, Florida, a report by the architects’ professional association doubting the power of building codes, the widespread devastation of Hurricane Ian, and a resilience success story in largely unscathed Babcock Ranch in its midst have elevated this issue as a trend worth watching as communities rebuild.
4. Climate legislation is enhancing human, as well as planetary, wellness. While legislators’ primary goal in phasing out gas lines to buildings is staving off climate impacts, the new laws are also producing a shift to healthier cooking technologies, especially induction. Increased solar panel and EV sales are spurring the acquisition of home electricity storage, which can enhance resilience against future power outages, especially for individuals with electrified medical equipment.
5. The lack of affordable housing across the country, especially in major metro areas, is driving up poverty levels and making it much harder for young adults to start families. Scarcity drives up rental prices, making it difficult for people to pay their bills and live close to school and jobs. It also increases developers’ incentives to build more rental units and investors’ incentives to convert more resale properties to rentals. Though rents have dipped in the fourth quarter of 2022, they’ve still jumped considerably in the last five years.
6. It’s becoming much more expensive, difficult and time-consuming to build homes and complete home improvement projects. Inflation and related supply chain woes have played a role in hiking the costs of materials and shipping, though both are easing into the new year. A bigger factor with no end in sight is skilled labor shortages. As general contractors and veteran tradesmen retire across the skills spectrum and immigration – a long-time source of basic construction labor – remains restricted, attracting construction talent is increasingly difficult.
7. The Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, made racial discrimination illegal in the United States, but other forms of discrimination, exploitation and regulatory choices have made homeownership an even more distant prospect for millions of Americans. “In the second quarter of 2022, the homeownership rate for White households was 75% compared to 45% for Black households, 48% for Hispanic households, and 57% for non-Hispanic households of any other race,” according to a November Treasury Department news release.
A recent report by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an organization representing minority professionals and consumers, covers the 2022 State of Housing in Black America, points to antiquated credit scoring systems, post-2008 mortgage practices that are exacerbating costs for low income borrowers, and rampant discrimination in the appraisal industry as contributing causes. “…despite some positive trends in Black homeownership last year, the near-term prognosis for future gains in Black homeownership do not seem positive,” the report’s introduction predicts.
8. Though there are laws and regulations slowly being enacted to combat it, and market forces driving reforms, climate change is impacting the safety, resilience and comfort of our homes and residential communities. It is showing up in hotter temperatures causing blackouts and water shortages, increased wildfire and storm seasons with greater severity, higher humidity levels impacting our health and that of our mechanical systems, and harmful air pollution being exacerbated by impacted ozone levels. There are already regions of India that are becoming uninhabitable because of rising temperatures, low-lying regions across the globe losing ground to rising sea levels, and new construction homes in Arizona being built and sold without water sources because of growing shortages.